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A Plymouth By Any Other Name: Branding Exported Chryslers, 1932-1972

Chrysler Corporation’s global sale of Plymouths — without the Plymouth name — began during the Depression, with just 1,173 cars in the 1932 Dodge DM series, made in Detroit.

The Canadian “Dodge” looked like U.S. Dodge cars, but used a Plymouth PB drivetrain, including the chassis, with the Dodge body perched on top. These Canada-only cars were the last four-cylinder Dodges built in North America until the Omni arived in 1977.

1932 dodge dm

Chrysler Canada continued in 1933 with the Dodge DQ and DP; both were Plymouth cars with Dodge design cues. The idea was to provide entry-level cars to dealers of higher brands, and to sell Plymouths where Dodge, DeSoto, or Chrysler was already set up. In nations where registration taxes were based on horsepower, the smaller Plymouth engines were more attractive; so they sold the Plymouths with Dodge or DeSoto grilles and other minor changes.

1939 Dodge D12 from Australia

The DQ and DP were built in Detroit, with a Plymouth body but a Dodge Six engine. Just about all parts were interchangeable until the DP wheelbase was increased (from 111 inches to 115).

1939 Dodge D9

Prewar Plymouth-based Dodges included a 1939 four-door convertible sedan, which, in the United States, was exclusive to Plymouth.

Plymouths dubbed “Dodge Kingsway” were sold after World War II in some regions, until 1959, when they were replaced by the Dodge Dart (not the later Valiant clone). In Canada, Dodges were sold with Plymouth dashboards and drivetrains until the 1967 model year.

The 1962 Dodge Dart didn’t use the Plymouth dash in Canada; both Plymouth and Dodge versions used the Dodge interior. Jim Benjaminson witnessed a 1962 Plymouth Belvedere with the Dodge “fratzog” on dash and embossed on the door panels.

1958 dodge regent

Plymouth-based DeSotos

Converting Plymouths into DeSotos began in 1937 and continued through the end of the 1959 model year, when, again, the Dodge Dart (Lancer in South Africa) replaced it. For 1937 and 1938, they used the cheaper Roadking. By this time, Chrysler had assembly plants in England, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark — though all closed before the end of 1939, because of the war.

loading 1956 Diplomat

In 1949, Plymouths were converted into the Dodge Kingsway, Kingsway Deluxe, and Kingsway Custom; and the DeSoto Diplomat, Diplomat Deluxe, and Diplomat Custom. In later years, every body style Plymouth built was converted to Dodges or DeSotos. This resulted in some odd cars.

1953 Plymouth based DeSoto Diplomat

1953 DeSoto Diplomat

1953 DeSoto Diplomat from Sweden

Dashboard

As DeSoto sales tanked in 1959, export DeSotos used a real DeSoto front clip attached to the Plymouth body, but this all stopped with the 1960 model year. The new Dodge Dart (again, not the Valiant clone) was made into the DeSoto Diplomat, with minor changes to trim, hubcaps, and nameplates. Production of these may well have been higher than the domestic DeSotos.

1959 Diplomat
Andrew Hodgson's 1959 Diplomat (England). The only difference from original is side trim from a Belvedere and the colour.

The Canadian Lancer

by Bill Watson

The Canadian Lancer was exported mainly to the Commonwealth countries, other than Great Britain (mainly shipped Australia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean countries). Canada had Commonwealth preferential trade ties with these countries at that time. I am not sure about South Africa, although after 1960 it is extremely doubtful, since that was the year that Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker led a movement to have South Africa drummed out of the Commonwealth for apartheid.

Plymouths sold as Chryslers

There are not as many Plymouths rebadged as Chryslers. The first Plymouth sold in England was the Q, in 1928, followed by the clearly linked 1930-31 Plymouth 30-U. The old Maxwells had been rebadged to Chrysler Four in 1927 and to Plymouth in 1928; it seems some were sold outside the US as Chryslers, too. The practice seems to have ended after World War II, except for the 1957-64 Australian Chrysler Royal, which was basically a 1953-54 Plymouth with a series of heavy facelifts, and the Valiant cars sold as “Chrysler Valiant” in most markets. Valiant was designed as a separate brand, and only brought to Plymouth a year after its launch, though.

Chrysler dealers in many nations also sold the Dodge truck line under the “Fargo” name from 1936 onwards, with most dropping the name in 1972 or earlier.

English Plymouths were sold as Chryslers, in this case the Chrysler Kew and the Chrysler Wimbledon, both suburbs of London; the Kew had a small bore export engine, while the Wimbledon had the regular U.S. built engine. Plymouth was finally sold in England in 1939, as “the Plymouth” (a Roadking with floor shift). They still sold the Kew and Wimbledon, in seven-passenger, convertible coupe, or four-place convertible victoria form (the latter with a Carlton body). These cars were made in England, on Mortlake Road in Kew (Surrey), until 1939. They also sold a Chrysler Eight as a Dodge.

Plymouth-Based Dodges and DeSotos: Chart

Photos of the cars in this chart!

Plymouth Dodge (export) Dodge (Canadian) DeSoto
DeLuxe (1946-50) Kingsway DeLuxe Kingsway Diplomat DeLuxe
Special DeLuxe (1946-50) Kingsway Special DeLuxe Regent Diplomat Special DeLuxe
Concord (1951-52) Kingsway Kingsway Diplomat
Cambridge Kingsway DeLuxe (1951-53) Crusader Diplomat DeLuxe
Cranbrook Kingsway Special DeLuxe Regent (1951-53) Diplomat Special DeLuxe
Belvedere Kingsway Custom Mayfair (1953-58) Diplomat Custom
Savoy (1954-58) Kingsway DeLuxe Regent Diplomat DeLuxe
Plaza (1954-58) Kingsway Crusader Diplomat
Fury (1959 only) Kingsway Custom Viscount Diplomat Custom
Sport Fury Kingsway n/a Diplomat
Sport Fury (1959) Lancer n/a Diplomat Adventurer
Belvedere (1959) Kingsway DeLuxe Mayfair Diplomat DeLuxe
Savoy (1959) Kingsway Regent Diplomat

(We now have a list of all these vehicles by serial number - click here!)

Dodge in Canada used the Kingsway name in 1940, 1941, 1951 and 1952. The 111" wheelbase 1949-1950 Dodges were DeLuxe, while the 118" models were DeLuxe or Special DeLuxe. The 123" and 137" models were sold in Canada as Custom in 1949 and 1950, the Coronet name not being adopted until 1951. The Wayfarer and Meadowbrook were not sold in Canada in 1949-1952.

More about the Diplomats

Photos by Philippe COURANT (1957 Crown convertible)

desoto diplomatDiplomats kept the Plymouth front clip with DeSoto grillwork until '57, when the introduction of the Dodge-based DeSoto Firesweep finally created a DeSoto front clip which would fit the Plymouth body. This continued through '59, when the Firesweep got front fenders which looked more like those of the senior DeSotos ('57-'58 Diplomats, like Firesweeps, used Dodge front fenders). 1959 is therefore the only year where Diplomats and senior DeSotos shared the same frontal appearance.

Automotive lighting expert Daniel Stern added:

Aftermarket lights were added near the headlamps on these cars sold in France, because the factory lights were too close together for local law. The add-on lights might provide a turn signal function, but they were more likely single-function front position lamps (“parking lights”). At the time, by law and common practice in France and many other countries, the headlamps were for use only outside built-up areas. In towns and cities, night driving was done with the front and rear position lamps (first click of the headlamp switch, Americans would say “parking and tail lights”). The law required front position lamps to be near the edges of the car, so pedestrians and bicyclists and other motorists could judge its width.

European headlamps had replaceable bulbs (as most modern ones do), with a built-in front position lamp, a small 4- or 5-watt bulb in its own socket protruding into the headlamp through the reflector or attached to the headlamp socket and visible through a slot in the headlight bulb’s base. American headlamps were sealed beams, with no provision for a built-in front position lamp. Therefore, position lights were added. The problem could have been solved more cleanly.

Metal-bodied station wagons seem to have used Plymouth nomenclature, with the exception of the bottom-line Diplomat 2-door wagon (and probably the Kingsway as well, though I was unable to find documentation) going by the name "Commercial Utility".

The Plymouth-based (pre-'60) Diplomats apparently differed enough from their siblings by virtue of their DeSoto frontal treatment that derivation from standard Plymouth trim was only necessary when the DeSoto wheelwell differed markedly from the Plymouth, as was the case in '57-'59.

1958 KingswayThe Dart-based '60-'61 Diplomat appeared identical to the Dodge on which it was based when viewed from the front and the rear, with the obvious exception of nameplates. (The '61 Diplomat Custom may have had an exclusive emblem in the center of a grille, in the manner of the '61 Polara and '62 Custom 880; the pictures I have are B&W copies of original brochure illustrations, and I can't make that part out for sure.) Side treatment was what differentiated the last Diplomats from their Dart cousins. The senior '60 Diplomats had a lower quarter panel moulding not unlike that seen on the '57 DeSoto line. The senior '61s had what appeared to be the '61 Pioneer moulding with an additional "thunderbolt" piece down below, continuing to the back of the car; a strange add-on to what was already in many eyes a strange looking car.

I have never seen a picture of a Rebel, and so I have no idea how much it differed from the ’61 Lancer, but I've been assured by a South African MoPar buff that all three compact makes were offered in that market...

Dave Homstad added:

In 1956, Dodge sold a Canadian Dodge Custom Royal based on the US Custom Royal [whose only visible difference was] a 1956 Plymouth V8 301 in place of the 56 Dodge 315. This summer I bought a brochure that I thought was for a US Custom Royal, but turned out to be for the Canadian version when I read the engine specs and business address. [Bill Watson wrote: It used the 303 cid V8 engine, which was also used in the Canadian Chrysler Windsor and exported to Detroit for use in the Plymouth Fury.]

Phillippe Courant added:

Notes about Diplomat and Kingsway serial number (infos from « le Catalogue des catalogues 1964»):

It'll be interesting to verify if the canadian models (Regent, Mayfair, Crusader&Mac183;) have the same serial number.

I have a copy of 59 Dodge Kingsway catalog (french text) : 8 pages which show every body available:

Dodge Kingsway (6 cyl ou V8) : Club sedan (2dr), sedan (4dr), business coupe (2dr, 6 cyl only) , suburban Deluxe (4dr) and commercial utility (2 dr wagon).

Dodge Kingsway Deluxe (8 models) : sedan 4dr, club sedan (2dr), faux cabriolet (= Hard Top model) 2 or 4 dr, station wagon Custom suburban (6 or 9 pass) and commercial utility 2 dr Dodge Kingsway Custom (6 models) : sedan 4dr, faux cabriolet (= Hard Top model) 2 or 4 dr, coupé décapotable Kingsway Lancer (= sport Fury convertible) with swivel seats, wagon sport suburban (6 or 9 pass).

4 engines were available : 6 cyl Powerflow, V8 « Fury V-800 » 318 CI, 2 or 4 barrels and V8 « Golden commando » 350 CI 4 barrels.

Sources

More photos of the cars mentioned in this page


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